This course explores the moral dimensions of the imagination through an examination of literature and philosophy. The aim of the course is to define and understand the concept of “imagination” and to be able to assess its role—for good or ill—in thought, action, and politics. Eighteenth-century philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a pioneer of the Romantic movement and helped to shape the heart and mind of the West, both politically and in more subtle, but no less profound, ways. This course seeks to uncover some of the ways in which Rousseau’s imagination serves as a touchstone for what has perhaps been the dominant moral sensibility in the West for the past two centuries.

Course begins on Wednesday, October 4th, 2023, at 5pm Pacific (8pm Eastern), and goes for EIGHT consecutive Wednesdays.



Note: you do NOT need to purchase any texts for this course. Below is a list of recommended reading materials used for each lesson:

  1. What is the Imagination?

Irving Babbitt, Rousseau and Romanticism, Introduction to the Transaction Edition, Claes G. Ryn: ix-lxvii

  1. Rousseau and the Tenor of Romanticism 

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Confessions, selections

  1. The Romantic Imagination, continued

Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality, selections and Reveries of a Solitary Walker, selections

  1. Irving Babbitt: Exposing “Sham Spirituality”

Irving Babbitt, Rousseau and Romanticism, Chapter III: “Romantic Imagination”

  1. Furnishing the Wardrobe of a Moral Imagination

Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France, selections Luke 16: 19-31 St. Augustine, Confessions, selections Aristotle, Poetics, selections

  1. Awakening the Moral Imagination through Fairytale 

Vigen Guroian, Tending the Heart of Virtue, Chapter 6, “Heroines of Faith and Courage: Princess Irene in The Princess and the Goblin and Lucy in Prince Caspian

  1. Two Opposing Imaginations: Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love 

Anna Karenina, selections Eat, Pray, Love, selections

  1. Concluding Thoughts: The Role of Imagination in Politics

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Course Includes

  • 8 Lessons
  • Course Certificate